Queen(s) of the Night

Author’s Note: This is the post that I wrote for Claire‘s blogoversary last week.

This music has nothing to do with the post, but it is some of the most sublime music and worth a listen. 8 minutes of pure bliss.

Hey there Horde®! It is an honor to be one of the writers celebrating Claire’s blogoversary. Most of you don’t know me, but, if the name looks familiar, I am the one on Twitter that sends Claire the crazy-ass youtube videos or the brain worms of websites (primarily this, this & this). As my Twitter® name (mitchthetenor) implies, I am a singer, mostly of opera/classical music, but I dabble in musical theatre & jazz periodically. Just so y’all are aware, my writing is very often punctuated with parenthetical tangents, references and/or clarifications. If that’s not your style, too bad. This is Claire’s deal, not yours. You will read this post AND be happy about it. So, enjoy (or else!).

Today’s post is about LGBT folk in the theatre, and is sponsored, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts & readers like you.

I am sure that most of you at least saw, if not read the “delightful” article in Newsweek at the end of April about gay folks being able to convincingly portray straight characters. To say that it is offensive is a rather large understatement.  While it is great that ally Kristin Chenoweth didn’t hold any punches in her response to the article and delightfully hunky out man, Cheyenne Jackson (of Broadway & 30 Rock fame) & Michael Urie (of Ugly Betty fame) took Ramin Setoodeh to task in their responses, what makes the article sting the most (to me, at least) was not the writing (although that does hurt), but the fact that the writer is gay. Who needs enemies when you’ve got friends like this, right?

In most realms of theatre (opera & broadway musicals/straight plays [heretofore referred to as MT for simplicity]), if you are a guy, you are gay until proven straight. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t be the case, and people could just be people, but it is what it is. In the MT realm, being gay doesn’t appear [to me] to be an issue, as it is virtually a fact of life. For some reason, in the opera world, there is a “stigma”* about it, as people are surprised when a gay man can effectively play the romantic lead to a woman. Wonderful tenor Nick Phan talks about his experiences with this very situation here. As a tenor, I can certainly relate. For some reason, the lower voiced men who are gay have less of a problem with this, despite having to face slightly similar, but also different, problems as the non-romantic leads. Us tenors just get a bad rap, as fey, limp-wristed folks who wear frilly clothes, methinks. 😉

What is so entertaining about this whole situation is that people seem to forget that when they go to the theater, 99% of the time, there is a suspension of disbelief. Most often in opera, this suspension occurs when analyzing the differences between the character and performer, usually an age, physical or gender difference. While I do understand that gender and physical differences usually go hand in hand, what I am trying to differentiate is that, the physical attributes (read: height-weight ratio) between the two can be vastly different (ie: Luciano Pavarotti singing Nemorino [in a production, not concert] in Donizetti‘s Elixir of Love). While I am not as versed in MT repertoire (although the role of Gary Coleman in Avenue Q does come to mind), there are countless roles in operas that require this to occur. Not for men, but for women. And, for some reason, this is totally OK with people and they think nothing of it: in Mozart‘s Marriage of Figaro, the young man Cheribuno is played by a mezzo-soprano. In Puccini‘s Madama Butterfly, the soprano required to sing this monumental role rarely looks the part of the virginal teen, and is far from being one. In Puccini & Verdi‘s masterpieces, La bohème & La traviata, both soprano leads are suffering from TB, and usually don’t look like they are suffering from it. In fact, for the premiere of Travaiata, the soprano was so, ahem, large that the audience could not suspend their disbelief & laughed. In Bellini‘s I Capuleti e i Montecchi, the mezzo-soprano again plays a man, this time, the ill-fated Romeo. Throughout opera, the number of “pants roles” is quite large (with the linked article listing just a few of the most common roles) and people . Even in “dress roles”, where a man dresses up like a woman, such as the witch in Humperdink‘s Hansel and Gretel, audience members can suspend their disbelief without issue. WTF. Going back to the musical theatre realm for a minute, the suspension of disbelief occurs anytime someone sees any of the puppet shows (Lion King, Avenue Q, etc.) or The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, as the performers are clearly not in middle school.

What Nick talks about in the second part of his post is something that transcends the stage, as it should be for all things in life: Does it [being gay] matter? NO! An artist should only be judged on their art. (Well, and maybe some politics. But mostly art. And only politics if they’re being dumb [both right & left can be, so I’m an equal opportunity ‘think-you’re-stupid’-er]).

I agree with him whole heartedly:

“…many people argue that it is important for performers to be open and come out because of their profile, so that they can set positive examples for the rest of the world.”

In closing I leave you with this thought: Wouldn’t it be great if performers(of any genre) be judged on the merit of their acting, singing, or whatever instead of who they are attracted to? To that end, wouldn’t it be great if people were judged on their own merits? While I am gay, that is only one small aspect of me. Yes, it is important, but it doesn’t define my entire being. And yes, I do prance around on stage with limp wrists in lots of frills, but PLEASE judge me on my prancing skills, not because I am gay.

I want to thank Claire for the opportunity to write for yous kids (and congrats on another year in the blogosphere, darling!) and Nick Phan for his wonderful and touching post on being out & proud in the opera world. Also, if you are an ally, there is no greater praise that could be given to you. Your job as an ally is one of the highest importance. As this next generation (God that makes me feel old…) becomes older, they are coming into a society that is more open, but they don’t know of the trials that have happened before them. Tell them about Matthew Shepherd. Teach them about HIV/AIDS. Sarah Jessica Parker made a good point about this:

“There seems to be, of concern to me, young men that are now sick again, or are HIV positive, and I think that because they were too young to see what happened 20 years ago, to know the devastation and the absolute heartbreak that accompanied that time.” video here

The young LGBT kids these days need (not just one, but many) allies, mentors & friends. For more on that, see this.

Peace out, horde.


* I say stigma, but there is no strong discrimination against the gays, but people can view you differently when casting and all that jazz.

Clip of the Day – Wagner’s Ring

So, some of you may know of my love of Wagner‘s music. Well, most of it. As Mark Twain once said, “…he [Wagner] has great moments and dreadful half hours…” Anywho. This is a preview of what is to come in The MET‘s new Ring Cycle, starting this fall, but to be spaced out over 2 years (2 shows each year, with full cycles beginning in 2012). *happy dance* Robert Lepage has wonderful productions that are visual spectacles, but not just so, as the spectacle enhances the art, and transcends it to a new level. His production (and here) of Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust for The MET, Opéra National de Paris & the  Saito Kinen Festival in Japan. This new production should be AMAZING! I can’t wait.

NOTE: I know that not all of you are opera folks, but check out the clips in both articles. It is amazing what he has done, and if nothing else, it’s something pretty to look at for a few minutes. That, and Susan Graham is totes hot and sounds even better. (So does John Relyea)

[Props to The Omniscient Mussel for posting this]

Catching up, demi-blog style

So, I’ve been perhaps the worst blogger of all time. The last time I posted something of note that wasn’t a video was July 13… [blog fail]

Anyway. Instead of retroactively writing blogs about the past, I’m just going to give you a nice set of demi-blogges about things that have happened from then to now and then be a good blogger and post on a regular basis, instead of having another one of these posts…

Things that have happened since I have last blogged:

  • I went to Minneapolis for a week to have a lot of fun with friends I met when I was in Italy in 2007. Lots of fun ensued, including a viewing of Harry Potter 6 after having quite a few cocktails…Like 4 STRONG martinis. Other highlights included going to the beach (yes, they do, in fact have beaches within the city limits) & running into people I knew from SLC that now live in the Twin Cities.
  • I drove down to Tucson with the Boif to drop him and his mom off at the U of Arizona (working on his Masters, she, her DMA) with the requisite stop in Vegas. Possibly one of the only times that gay folks have stayed at the Hooters Casino & Resort. Despite the reputation, the hotel was nice, the food was good, and the pools were wonderful. It certainly is a sign of addiction when you make it your goal to get to St. George in less than 4 hours because that’s when the Starbucks closes. We then rushed to get to Vegas in less 2 hours, but very clearly going the speed limit, officer, because I had never seen the Bellagio dancing water live before, and we would be leaving before the ‘shows’ start the next day. And Boif + mom thought it important for me, seeing as how I love spectacle. Totally wonderful. Glad that when we were there when they were not playing Time to say goodbye; partially because I’m not a large fan of it in general, but it is Sarah Brightman singing. Just like Anna Netrebko, not a large fan. That said, I do like Anna much more than Sarah.
  • I have been in the chorus of Utah Opera‘s productions of Macbeth & Carmen (Italian girl in Algiers is coming up in March though). These three shows have been wonderful to be in, as they have given me the opportunity to meet a lot of fun people(chorus and principals), get paid to do something I’m going to school for *concept*, and just have a lot of fun in general. Despite the obvious, it makes me feel like I am a “professional” singer, but not in chorus, if that makes sense. I think that Macbeth was the most informative, and network building of the shows, Carmen the most fun off stage and I believe that Italian girl will be the most fun on stage, seeing as how staging rehearsals are going.

From now on, I promise to keep all of my readers updated much more. Henceforth and all that jazz.

Ciao belli!

Filippa Giordano

I don’t think that there are words to describe this aptly.

An english version of Nessun dorma from Puccini’s Turandot.

O mio babbino caro from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi

Vissi d’arte from Puccini’s Tosca

Casta diva from Bellini’s Norma

Una voce poco fa from Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia

Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen

Si, mi chiamano Mimi from Puccini’s La boheme